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Aidan Randle-Conde | Université Libre de Bruxelles | Belgium

View Blog | Read Bio

Milestones and meter markers

Runners taking part in the relay race

Runners taking part in the relay race

Recently CERN had its annual relay race. It’s a great change from a normal day of work (whatever that means!) and a chance to mix with people from all parts of the lab. There are teams who compete to run the circuit around the Meryin site, hoping to win prizes in all sorts of categories from best veterans (combined age of over 270) to best all-female team. There’s even a prize awarded using a random number generator. There’s a task force 12 experts who spend 3 months writing an algorithm to produce a truly random number. (Only kidding- someone draws a piece of paper from a box!) This is one of the few days in the year that brings the whole lab together, so there are plenty of stalls around for the different social and sporting clubs and even a band that performs.

I didn’t realize what struck me most about the event until a few days later though. Last year when I came to Geneva looking for an appartement I found somewhere nice within a couple of days and had a spare day to explore Geneva and CERN. That day happened to be the CERN relay race, and it took me by surprise! So that means I’ve been here for nearly a year already, and wow has that time flown by! What has happened since then? Well there have been some interesting results coming from the experiments, including the ATLAS di-jet asymmetry and the CMS ridge. We’ve taken loads of data (although this is just the tip of a very big iceberg!) both with proton collisions and heavy ion collisions. The race for the Higgs is now in full swing as we pass 300pb-1 of data. There has been a lot of media attention, the Universe of Particles exhibit opened, the tram arrived and the main areas of CERN are being completely remodeled.

The awards ceremony

The awards ceremony

Personally things have changed a great deal as well. My early days on the experiment consisted mainly of working for two masters (ATLAS at CERN and BaBar at SLAC) which meant very long days in building 40 for the first couple of months. Since then my knowledge of ATLAS has increased steadily, with a search for the exotic charged Higgs boson which allowed me to learn about jets, tau leptons and missing energy at ATLAS. In parallel to that I’ve worked on the trigger which has been an ongoing challenge, and forced me to get to grips with nearly all the main parts of ATLAS software, from writing my own modules to defining a new ntuple transformation (going from one format of data to a new format.) It’s rather rewarding and reassuring to be able to define a completely new data format like that!

Of course this is by no means everything that happens to physicists at CERN! I’ve traveled all the way to Beijing (and back again on the trans-Mongolian railway!) to present my work, and our analysis on the charged Higgs has also been published. I’ve mentored a grad student, given a class on computer programming, and in my spare time I’ve set up and organized the LGBT group at CERN. As the workload started to ease off, I decided to take up blogging for US LHC Blogs, and that’s been a great way to meet people! This blog is one of the best ways to get a sense of what is happening at CERN and what the latest news is. There’s certainly a very active grapevine in high energy physics, and rumors are constantly circulating. It’s hard to know what’s what, so joining this blog is a refreshing change and gives all kinds of insights that aren’t found elsewhere.

So things have come a long way in a year, and there far too much has happened to fit into a single blog post. It feels like a being running just to keep up with everything that has happened! But despite all that’s changed the relay race still managed to take me by complete surprise, again. Next year I’ll be ready for it…

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